North Beach’s Ocean Terrace upzoning still up in the air

Change, which would allow 22-stories and greater density, was deferred to July 29

Jul.July 08, 2015 06:15 PM

A proposed zoning change for Ocean Terrace in North Beach that would allow for greater height and density sparked an outcry from some residents at the Miami Beach City Commission meeting on Wednesday.

The proposed upzoning would create an overlay district between Collins Avenue, Ocean Terrace, 73rd Street, and 75th Street. Claro Development, which backs the change, has bought four hotels in the area for a combined price of $57.3 million. The tallest structure is seven stories. Miami Beach code now allows new structures that are eight stories or 75 feet in height.

The proposed code would allow buildings 250 feet in height, or 22 stories. It will also allow a pedestal as large as 15,000 square feet in size.

Future density for lots greater than 20,000 square feet in size would increase from 2.0 FAR (floor area ratio) to 3.0 FAR. Therefore, the size of a future building could be three times the gross area of the lot on which it is built, instead of two times, as allowed now.

Although a proposed ordinance was deferred until July 29, more than a dozen people insisted on speaking against the project at the commission meeting. Many of the speakers argued that the zoning change would destroy North Beach’s historic character and block views. There were also some accusations that the mayor and commissioners were being unduly influenced by David Custin, a lobbyist and political consultant who represents Claro Development.

“We don’t live in Aventura,” said Clotilde Luce, a Miami Beach activist and preservationist. “You are all slowly diluting and dilapidating Miami Beach’s post card image.”

Miami Beach voters, however, will ultimately decide on the overall density. Under Miami Beach charter, any zoning change dealing with an increase in FAR (not height) must be approved by the electorate.

Neisen Kasdin, a lobbyist representing Claro Development, said the ordinance was delayed because the city’s planning board insisted on changes to the proposed code. Those changes include “reducing the allowable commercial [area] over what is presently allowed” and “imposing new restrictions” including banning package stores in the area, Kasdin said.

Besides the referendum requirement, Kasdin also stressed that any future project in Ocean Terrace must come before the Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board since it’s located in an historic district.

Kasdin insisted that the project is supported by “the vast majority” of North Beach residents because it will revitalize Ocean Terrace and northern Collins Avenue. “That area is in trouble,” he said, “and it needs this.”

But Franciska Medina said Ocean Terrace’s buildings, built between the 1940s and 1950s, were the reason she moved to North Beach. The overlay district, she believed, puts those buildings in jeopardy.

“My opinion is that Ocean Terrace, being part of a historic district, is not an obstacle that needs to be erased,” Medina said. “…  It’s the only comparable place we have to Ocean Drive.”

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